A.G. Schneiderman And Local Officials Showcase Achievements Of Housing Programs Designed To Rebuild New York Neighborhoods

Attorney General’s Foreclosure Relief Programs Have Helped More Than 6,800 Hudson Valley Families Keep Their Homes

Tens of Thousands Of Families At Risk of Foreclosure Across New York Have Benefited From Homeowner Protection Program, Mortgage Assistance Program, AndAGScamHelp.com

Schneiderman: No Family Should Ever Lose Their Home Because They Could Not Speak To A Housing Counselor Or Get A Small Loan To Refinance Their Mortgage

WHITE PLAINS – August 6, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, joined by housing advocates, local lawmakers, and a Hudson Valley homeowner,  today highlighted the success of several programs created by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) during the past five years to help New York families keep their homes. These three programs – the Homeowner Protection Program, New York State Mortgage Assistance Program, and AGScamHelp.com—have helped tens of thousands of New York families—and over 6,800 homeowners in the Hudson Valley—avoid foreclosure.

“No family should ever lose their home because they could not speak to a housing counselor or get a small loan to refinance their mortgage,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “When I came into office, there were virtually no resources available to help families in the Hudson Valley—and across the state—who had been hurt by the foreclosure crisis. I am proud that as a result of these great programs and resources, my office has been able to keep nearly 50,000 families in their homes since then.”

Peekskill resident Earline Williams-Matthews, along with her children and grandchildren, are just one example of the thousands of New York families who have benefitted from the Attorney General’s housing programs. In 2010, Ms. Williams-Matthews moved from the Bronx to Peekskill with her family to escape the city for the quiet suburbs of the Hudson Valley. However, unexpected medical bills caused her to fall behind on her mortgage payments, putting Ms. Williams-Matthews at risk of losing her home to foreclosure. Fortunately, Ms. Williams-Matthews heard about Westchester Residential Opportunities, a HOPP partner, by word of mouth, and immediately applied for a NYS-MAP loan at the advice of a housing counselor. After being approved for a loan, Ms. Williams-Matthews was able to repay the money she owed and is now no longer in default.

“I’m very happy that my family still has a home to call our own,” said Ms. Williams-Matthews. “Facing foreclosure was like an anchor around my neck and the Attorney General’s program was my life boat.”

“Families in the Hudson Valley were devastated by the financial crash,” said Barbara Finkelstein, Executive Director of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. “We’re fortunate that Attorney General Schneiderman has made helping New York homeowners a priority from the earliest days of his administration. Thanks to his foreclosure relief programs, thousands of Hudson Valley families have stayed in their homes and our communities have remained intact.”

Homeowner Protection Program

The Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), which was launched in June 2012, is a network of almost 90 housing counseling and legal services agencies that provide free, high-quality assistance to at-risk families across New York to help them avoid foreclosure.

HOPP is supported by $100 million from the multibillion-dollar bank settlements that Attorney General Schneiderman helped negotiate in the wake of the financial crisis.  In less than three years, HOPP has served more than 49,000 homeowners statewide. OAG has eleven HOPP partners in the Hudson Valley. Together with OAG’s statewide anchor partner, Empire Justice Center, these eleven local partners have served nearly 7,000 families in the Hudson Valley with more than 2,500 loan modifications.

New York State Mortgage Assistance Program

The New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (NYS-MAP), which began processing applications from across the state in October 2014, provides families at risk of immediately losing their homes with small loans to pay off debts that are a barrier to mortgage modification.

NYS-MAP loans, which may be as much as $40,000, help families who are struggling to avoid foreclosure to pay off mortgage arrears, delinquent second or third mortgage liens, or unpaid property tax bills. The program is funded with money from the bank settlements.

The program is modeled after a New York City-funded pilot program administered through the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN). OAG is working with CNYCN, as well as the Empire Justice Center, to assist in the operations of NYS-MAP. Both agencies are contracted by the Office of the Attorney General to assist with the administration of HOPP.

In less than a year, NYS-MAP has approved more than 300 loans across the state worth more than $9.3 million. The average loan amount, statewide, is $30,371. In the Hudson Valley, NYS-MAP has approved 22 loans totaling $656,000.

AGScamHelp.com

AGScamHelp.com, launched in December 2014, is a web-based app that helps homeowners determine whether a mortgage assistance company has been vetted by a government agency. OAG urges homeowners at risk of foreclosure to work with a free, qualified housing counseling agency within HOPP. The app is supported by funds from the bank settlements.

OAG launched AGScamHelp.com in direct response to an observed increase in mortgage rescue scams in New York and across the country. According to a December 2014 report by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, more than 42,000 homeowners have been conned out of $100 million nationwide.

New Yorkers have been hit particularly hard. From March 2010 to September 2014, New York homeowners submitted over 2,700 foreclosure rescue scam complaints to the Lawyer Committee for Civil Rights, documenting at least $8.25 million in losses.  In the Hudson Valley alone, New Yorker submitted 426 complaints.

AGScamHelp.com has several informational features:

  • Search Government-Vetted Companies: AGScamHelp.com allows consumers to search the name of an individual or company to determine if that entity is a “government-vetted” agency (that is, either a member of the Attorney General’s HOPP network or a HUD-certified counseling agency). If the company searched is not a government-vetted agency, the consumer will be told to proceed with caution and advised with several tips on how to identify signs of a foreclosure rescue scam.
  • Locate Nearby Counseling Partners: The web-based app also features an interactive map that allows consumers to find the nearest Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) grantee. The Attorney General has dedicated $100 million to fund HOPP, a network of more than 85 housing counseling and legal services agencies across the state that are dedicated to providing free assistance to New Yorkers.
  • Report Scams: Consumers who have already been contacted by, or are in the process of working with a company suspected of operating a foreclosure rescue scam, will also have the option to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. They will be directed to a separate page where they can complete a complaint form online. All complaints will be directed to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, and will be mediated by the Attorney General’s Office.
  • Get Tips: AGScamHelp.com offers details on how to recognize signs of a foreclosure rescue scam, including samples of scam letters and other materials utilized by fraudsters to target homeowners, and provides information about recent foreclosure scams that have been the subject of enforcement actions brought by the Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement agencies.

“Homeowners in the Hudson Valley can rest easier knowing that the State of New York offers resources to help refinance and avoid foreclosure and scams,” said United States Congresswoman Nita Lowey. “Proven, successful programs within the Attorney General’s office have provided a lifeline to thousands of families in our region who are trying to keep their homes. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s efforts to highlight this assistance, and I will continue working with state and local officials to ensure homeowners have access to the support they need.”

“Thousands of struggling New York families were taken advantage of by disreputable lenders and millions were impacted by the bursting of the sub-prime mortgage bubble,” said Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “Thankfully, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has made it a priority to protect these New Yorkers and ensure our state’s residents have access to legitimate housing programs, legal services, loans, mortgage modification, and scam alerts to find reputable and ethical lenders. These essential services have helped families take control of their debt and get their finances back on track. I commend the Attorney General for his dedication to protecting New Yorkers and ensuring access to quality housing services and programs.”

“I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for three specific points regarding these lawsuits,” said New York State Senator George Latimer. “His office brings multi-billion dollar wrongdoers to justice.  He is transparent, letting New Yorkers know where these funds are going.  And, with these settlements, he is directly combating the problems caused by the illegal business practices of mortgage companies who sought exceptional profit from consumers pursuing the American Dream.”

“Any family can fall behind on rent or mortgage payments due to illness, the loss of a job or other circumstances beyond their control,” said New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “Legal Services of the Hudson Valley helps families, including vulnerable children and seniors, avoid homelessness by providing free legal services.”

“When a home is foreclosed upon, it is often left vacant, and the community suffers greatly as the property deteriorates,” said New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald. “In the small towns and big cities alike, the Attorney General’s proactive foreclosure prevention plan helps to curb the uprooting of families and the erosion of neighborhoods. For those families in Westchester struggling to make their mortgage payments, these programs can mean the difference when it comes to being able to stay in their homes. I would like to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for working to prevent the disruptive foreclosures of homes of hard-working middle class families in New York.”

“Attorney General Schneiderman has provided valuable programs and resources to help individuals and families in White Plains keep their homes,” said White Plains Mayor Tom Roach. “In doing so, he has made a positive contribution to the well-being and stability of our community.”

The Hudson Valley has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. According to data obtained from RealtyTrac, in 2014 the Hudson Valley had more than 3,200 foreclosures for vacant or abandoned homes—the third-largest total in the state.  Vacant or abandoned properties comprised 21 percent of all residential foreclosures in the Hudson Valley in 2014.

Attorney General Schneiderman has made combatting the housing crisis a priority of his administration. The Attorney General has also pursued relief for communities by directing $33 million from the National Mortgage Settlement to community land banks through the Community Revitalization Initiative (CRI). Land banks are nonprofit organizations that can acquire property that is tax-delinquent, tax-foreclosed, vacant, or abandoned, and return the properties to productive use. Land banks are working at the local level across New York State to rebuild and revitalize their communities. The Newburgh Community Land Bank has received more than $4.3 million in funding to create green space and affordable rental and single-family housing.

New York City Press Office: (212) 416-8060

Albany Press Office: (518) 776-2427
nyag.pressoffice (at) ag.ny (dot) gov

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